Jakob Silfverberg is sidelined indefinitely because of a blood clot in his right leg, sitting out Saturday for the eighth game. Nicolas Deslauriers now plays for the Minnesota Wild. Hampus Lindholm now plays for the Boston Bruins. Josh Manson now plays for the Colorado Avalanche.
Is it any wonder the Ducks’ penalty kill, once one of the NHL’s most effective, has slipped into the middle of the pack, ranking 11th in the 32-team league with a still credible 80.7 percent success rate?
One of the unintended consequences of new Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek’s flurry of trades before the March 21 deadline was a depletion of the penalty killing ranks. Four of their best penalty killers are either injured or playing elsewhere after Verbeek’s moves to rebuild the roster.
The Ducks tied their season high by giving up three power-play goals in a 6-3 loss March 21 to the Nashville Predators. They gave up two power-play goals in a 4-2 loss Wednesday to the Chicago Blackhawks. They gave up one in a 4-1 loss Saturday to the San Jose Sharks.
They have killed only five shorthanded situations in 11 chances over the past three games (45.5 percent).
“It is hard losing players, but we’re trying to take the next-man-up mentality,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said the other day of adjusting for the departures of Deslauriers, Lindholm and Manson. “Our penalty kill has been very, very good this year. It’s won us a lot of games.”
One of the Ducks’ penalty killing units Saturday was comprised of forwards Derek Grant and Gerry Mayhew and defensemen Cam Fowler and Andrej Sustr. Grant and Fowler are longtime Ducks. Mayhew and Sustr were claimed off waivers from other clubs in recent days.
Clearly, Mayhew and Sustr are learning on the job, thrust into enhanced roles by necessity.
Those four were on the ice Saturday for Timo Meier’s power-play goal 3:56 into the third period, which restored the Sharks’ two-goal lead only 2:51 after Mayhew cut the Ducks’ deficit to 2-1 with his first goal since he was claimed on waivers March 20 from the Philadelphia Flyers.
“Our penalty kill overall this year has been really, really good, but since the trade deadline and just leading into it, it’s fallen off,” Eakins said Saturday, after the Ducks’ winless streak reached nine games (0-7-2). “It’s something we’ve been really keying on. It was a little bit better against San Jose.”
The Ducks’ prospects and players 21-and-under were top-ranked in the NHL, according to The Hockey News’ annual report. Five of the Ducks’ top prospects – Mason McTavish, Lukas Dostal, Olen Zellweger, Jacob Perreault and Drew Helleson – ranked among the magazine’s top 83 prospects.
The next five on the Ducks’ prospect list: Brayden Tracey, Jackson LaCombe, Sasha Pastujov, Henry Thrun and Ian Moore. Trevor Zegras, 21, and Jamie Drysdale, 19, headed The Hockey News’ 21-and-under list of Ducks players, those too established in the NHL to be considered prospects.
(Editor’s note: Elliott Teaford wrote the thumbnail profiles of each Ducks prospect for the magazine in a freelance-reporting assignment. The list of top-10 prospects for the team and the overall NHL rankings were selected and compiled by a panel of NHL scouts).